Ways Your Congregations can Support First-time Parents
With myriad emotions we welcome a new child into our home and family. We may be celebrating the efforts of a normal, healthy pregnancy, anticipating a long- awaited child through adoption or fertilization programs, or caught off-guard as a teen parent. Whichever, most first-time parents "nest" with a serious intent to create a safe and welcome place for this tiny gift of joy and responsibility.
Announcements of impending births are filled with hopes, dreams and uncertainties.
Announcements of impending births are filled with hopes, dreams and uncertainties. Vulnerable moments in people's lives can be important entry points for pastors and for congregations to connect with and support them in practical, emotional and spiritual ways.
How you and your congregation can help:
- Invite families who use your nursery to form a prayer chain for expectant parents. Publish the names and numbers of the people receiving requests. Prayer support throughout a difficult pregnancy or long-awaited adoption, along with periodic e-mail messages or phone calls offering faith filled encouragement is invaluable.
- Consider sponsoring an annual or semi-annual "baby clothes, furniture or toy exchange" in your congregation or with other churches or agencies.
- Provide a gift from your congregation at birth that includes a listing of ministries available to new parents, such as church nursery, "moms morning out" programs, parent-child play or support groups. You may want to provide a 'church bag" for each family with a soft toy and things to occupy the child during worship and other church events.
- Prepare and promote a list of day-care providers in your congregation.
- Train youth to be Red Cross certified babysitters and promote them as potential support for parents with young children. A Confirmation service project might include a donation of five to ten hours of child care per year.
- Display a birth rose in worship to honor the birth of a newborn or newly adopted child. Have another new parent deliver the rose to the home to help connect young families to each other.
- Arrange for daytime or evening Bible study and conversation for young parents and plan to provide child care. Send special invitations to welcome and engage them. Meeting in small groups for prayer, sharing and support can become e a lifeline for stressed parents.
- Consider teen pregnancy a special opportunity to reach out. Explore partnering with school and community services to help provide practical assistance. Offer to provide a mentor, engaging an expectant or experienced parent, or an empty-nester or grandparent to befriend and support them.
- Deliver bread, cookies or meals in the days following birth. Include a devotional book for new parents or a children's book.
This article was published in Seeds for the Parish
, a bimonthly resource paper for leaders of ELCA congregations.